District 67 officials not planning new referendum
Updated: March 22, 2013 11:02AM
Now that voters have turned down a request for new property tax revenue for the third time in a year, officials in Golf Elementary School District 67 don’t plan on seeking a tax hike anytime soon.
For one thing, Board Vice President Samina Hussain said the board is busy interviewing candidates for the post of superintendent. Current Superintendent Jamie Reilly is leaving at the end of the school year.
Hussain said cuts the district has made in the past several years in an effort to balance the budget will remain in effect. They include such things as elimination of all-day kindergarten and after school sports programs, things officials had planned to restore if the referendum was successful.
Interim Business Manager Mary McConahay had developed a two-year program for restring many of the programs and staff cut by the district. The board reviewed that just prior to the Feb. 26 vote.
“At this point, the cuts already in place will remain in place,” Hussain said.
The referendum would have raised the maximum increase in the school district’s property tax levy from the estimated 3 percent allowed under the Cook County Tax Cap to 16.3 percent, providing as much as $1.14 million in new revenue. Voters rejected the proposal, voting roughly 2-1 against the measure.
An identical tax hike was defeated in November by a margin of about 20 percent, though at that time voters did approve the sale of bonds to finance improvements to both District 67 schools and for construction of a new gym at Hynes Elementary School. In March of last year, voters turned down an increase in the maximum tax rate in the education fund.
McConahay told the board shortly before the February vote that the district has managed to build up enough of a fund balance that even with the referendum’s failure no new cuts are needed at this time.
But Hussain said there are factors that may impact that.
For one, the district is in negotiations with teachers over a new contract. The current one expires in June.
McConahay’s financial forecasts were based on a projected increase of about 3 percent, coinciding with the cost of living increase.
“Depending on how that comes out, we don’t know how that will impact the budget,” Hussain said.
Another issue has been discussions by state lawmakers about shifting some of the cost of the teachers’ pension system onto local districts as a way to help the state reduce its deficit.
Depending on if and how that is done, Hussain said that could have a major financial impact on the district.
“I don’t know how they’re going to be implementing it,” she said. “We don’t know how it’s going to impact us.”
Hussain said she is not sure when the district could legally go out for a referendum again. For now, at least, she said the board is occupied by the search for a new superintendent.
The board has started interviewing candidates for the post, with an eye toward making a decision early this spring.
“I think right now we’re trying to focus on the superintendent search,” Hussain said. “We’re going to be busy with that now.”
Budget cuts at District 67 over the past several years resulted in the elimination of full-day kindergarten, clubs and athletics, a part-time reading specialist, art and music programs, textbooks and professional development.
In the current 2012-13 school year, cuts and reductions in programs and personnel, as well as pay freezes, totaled $722,684 in savings.